Book report: Harlan Coben ‘Six years’
Six Years is one of the standalones of American thriller writer Harlan Coben. In six years, Natalie, the great love of Jake, disappears from one day to the next from his life. When her husband is found murdered, Jake is driven to track down Natalie and help her. Because he is convinced that she is in trouble and cannot count on anyone. For this he goes so far as to become a victim himself and is threatened. The further he gets in his search, the more convinced he is that her disappearance is not a choice Natalie made.
- Main characters
- Symbols and motifs
- Title explanation
- Structure and perspective / way of telling
- Time and place
- Original title: Six years
- Dutch title: Six years
- Author: Harlan Coben
- First print: 2013
- First edition translated into Dutch: 2013
- Translation: Sabine Mutsaers
- Number of pages: 332
- ISBN: 978-90,225-7908-4
Six years ago, Natalie, Jake’s great and only love, married Todd. Jake was at the wedding party and had promised Natalie that he was going to leave them alone. For six years he had thought of her every day. Now Jake is reading the obituary of Todd, Natalie’s 42-year-old husband.
Jake decides to go to the funeral. While there, he discovers that Todd has a teenage son, so chances are he was already married before his marriage to Natalie. Jake also learns that Todd has been shot, the police think about a robbery that got out of hand. But Jake is really surprised when he learns that Todd had been married to his high school sweetheart, Delia, for years. Together they had two children Eric and Katie. Natalie is nowhere to be seen. When Jake tells all this to his best friend Benedict, he immediately has two explanations. Todd was a polygamist and had different children with different women or he wasn’t the same Todd.
Jake can’t resist and decides to dig into Todd and Natalie’s past. When Jake calls Natalie’s sister, she reacts very bizarre and does not seem to know him. Jake decides to return to the “Creative Refueling” camp, where he met Natalie. But when he gets there, no one can remember that a camp was once organized at that location. He also cannot find anything about the marriage between Todd and Natalie.
Back home, Jake receives an email with the message: You promised. He tries to respond, but immediately gets a message that the email address is unknown. Jake is thinking about putting it to rest effectively. But Jake can’t resist hiring a friend who used to work at the FBI. She also cannot find any information about Natalie.
Bob and Otto
After a night out with Benedict and two beautiful women, Jake walks around the campus with the necessary drink in his body. There he is approached by Bob, a man who had followed him before. Bob claims to know where Natalie is and takes him to a van where Otto is waiting for them. And then Jake is forcibly taken. The men want to know what Jake knows about Natalie and where she is. Despite his attempts to make it clear that he doesn’t know himself, they want an answer. After a fight in which Otto accidentally dies, Jake manages to escape.
Jake is taken in by the police, who do not value his story as he is drunk. Benedict also has his doubts about it. When Jake is back on campus, he is told by the principal that he has to take a leave of absence and is not welcome on campus during that time. One of his students and his only witness for the evening had been badly attacked by Otto before they kidnapped Jake. The boy is in hospital and cannot remember anything. His friends behind him had only seen Jake boarding a van and found their friend wounded on the ground.
Things don’t get any better when Jake is wanted for the murder of one of his two kidnappers, when it was a stupid accident in itself. Jake doesn’t want to report until he’s done a few more things. With the help of his friends, Jake discovers that Natalie’s father had also worked as a professor on campus and lived there with his family until one day he disappeared without leaving a message. It was rumored that he ran off with a student.
Julie, Natalie’s sister, can’t tell Jake much as she hasn’t seen Natalie since her wedding to Todd. She knows that Denmark was Natalie and Todd’s home base, but they mostly traveled to do charity work. So Julie cannot believe that Todd was murdered and married to another woman. While Jake is convinced that Todd was Natalie’s ex-boyfriend before their wedding, Julie explains to him that the two hadn’t known each other very long when they got married.
As Jake uses Benedict’s car, he notices using the GPS that the last destination used is the exact address of the camp site. Benedict was lying or he must have had a good reason to drive there. Jake can’t help searching Benedict’s PC for clues. He is surprised at what he thinks, but especially because Benedict is standing in front of him with a gun in hand. Benedict explains to Jake that he is from Gana where he was a prosecutor and fought the drug cartels. Jamal, which was his real name, had staged his death to make sure he and his wife were safe. His wife doesn’t even know he’s still alive.
The camp was a cover for people who needed a fresh start. Jake immediately links to Natalie, who probably also needed a new identity. And that was the reason for the fake marriage. Benedict tries to convince Jake to let it go, not just for his own safety, but also for Natalie’s and other people’s safety. Jake understands Benedict and is glad his friend doesn’t want to kill him after all. But he is not yet convinced to let it go.
Since Todd has been murdered and someone knows the marriage was fake, Natalie is in danger. So he certainly shouldn’t let her down. With the help of a photo and some articles, Jake understands why Natalie went into hiding. Years ago, she probably witnessed the murder of Archer Minor, the son of one of the most famous Mafia bosses Maxwell Minor. There was a chance that he had been executed by his own father, as Archer had publicly questioned his father’s practices. And that’s why Maxwell’s men are looking for Natalie to avoid testifying against him.
Jake is found during his investigation by one of Maxwell Minor’s henchmen. He has nowhere to go, but suddenly Natalie is in front of them. Together they manage to kill the henchman. When Natalie hears the sound of sirens, she wants to run. Jake wants to go with her, but Natalie refuses his company. Again she asks him to promise not to look for her.
A year later
Jake has a different name and knows exactly what happened in Natalie’s past. Archer Manor had been studying in Lanford at the same time that Natalie was teaching her father there. Archer was not a good student and had taken a thesis from another student and Natalie’s father had reported this fraud. As a result, he was killed by Archer. Natalie never believed her father had left them, and at one point her mother had told her the truth. It was Natalie who killed Archer and his father wanted revenge.
A year ago, Jake had made no promises to Natalie, but left with her, and now they are married and are living new lives in New Mexico.
He is six feet five, has beautiful blue eyes and has the build of a lumberjack. Jake is thirty-five years old and teaches political science. He grew up in Philadelphia.
She is from New Jersey and is thirty-four years old. She has a sister Julie, her mother is still alive, but her father is dead.
He is Jake’s best friend. He is a lecturer at the Faculty of Classics. Benedict is small, slender and black and a great womanizer.
Symbols and motifs
Jake knows he should let go of Natalie. But he can’t. He is convinced that they are made for each other.
Despite all the advice and threats Jake receives, he doesn’t give up looking for Natalie. In fact, he manages to get her to get out of hiding for him and rescue him.
The title Six years refers to the time that Jake has not seen Natalie again.
Old love does not rust.
Structure and perspective / way of telling
The book is dedicated to Brad Bradbeer and consists of 332 pages, divided into 36 chapters. The story represents Jake Fisher’s point of view, which is written in I person.
Time and place
The story is set in the present in Savannah, Lanford, Vermont and New Mexico.
Nothing in this story is what it seems. It is not a thriller that you are used to from Harlan Coben. It doesn’t have a solid action, but a storyline, which is complicated and confusing. The characters are written very superficially. It is also rather a suspense novel rather than a real thriller. In any case, it is a book that is easy to read, with a surprising denouement.